"Freeloading?" Need some thoughts - Mothering Forums

 
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#1 of 10 Old 03-20-2006, 11:04 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi all,

I posted this to my Yahoo group, but thought I'd post it here, too so I could try to get a variety of responses.

This may or may not come out oddly, but I was wondering (as is my doula partner) if anyone else is noticing this happen to them... I'll give it my best shot, and attempt brevity.

Ok, what has happened to the two of us lately is this scenario (it has repeated for the second time now, hence this post).

A client will contact us. She will give her basic info, and request a call back. Which we will, either one or both of us. She will then describe exactly what she is looking for, and say that we sound like we fit the bill. We will describe our usual process (free interview with as much time as she feels she needs to decide, and then work from there.) She will then talk about wanting info about a pregnancy related subject, and we agree to bring some info to the interview. Possibly give her a few sites she could look at, or say, "I know a great book that describes what you are talking about, it may be worth checking out..."

An interview is set up. Or not. If it is set up, the day of, it will be broken, and perhaps rescheduled, only to be broken again. If it isn't set, a future date of decision on the interview is set. The day comes, along with another phone call. With another problem. With more requests for resources, attempts to get answers to pregnancy questions, etc. (I say "attempts," as we always make it clear that we're not the fountains of knowledge, and we can really offer experience and resources, but will not tell them what action to take. They do still try, though!) And so on, and so on. All of this taking time, and we don't even have a contract.

Please note, this has nothing to do with money- most of my clients thus far have been free, or vastly reduced. I am just now celebrating my first fully paid client, and she's about the 5th or 6th woman I've worked with. We are happy to work with women as volunteers or reduced if that's what they really need. BUT, they need to tell us that.

Now, in the true spirit of reflection, and betterment of ourselves, doula partner and I have pondered our situation, and mulled the pros and cons, and decided to start telling potentials that we will be better able to talk to them, and discuss excellent resources for their concerns or wishes or whatever flips their skirts at an interview. We need to save our resources (and time is a precious one) for the clients we have actually contracted to work with, instead of people who spend 4 phone conversations milking info out of us, only to never be heard from again.

I hope this is taken as what it is- we're looking for feedback on 1) does this happen often to any of you out there? and 2) how have you managed to balance being truly concerned and caring for birthing and pregnant women as a whole, while truly making sure that energy isn't poured into what could possibly be a very bored and lonely person making a series of prank calls? (I swear, one call from the habitual interview breaker sounded like she was giddy and kind of laughing). We are open to working with all economic levels of women, and make it clear in our advertising and whatnot, but I feel like money isn't an issue with the two scenarios in particular; rather, the actual effort into doing a face-to-face. Or the reality of it.

Anyways, thank you all in advance for your collective wisdom!

Clara

Mama to a beautiful little girl, born July 18, 2007
Eager for a VBAC some time around April 10, 2010!
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#2 of 10 Old 03-21-2006, 12:55 AM
 
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I am not a doula, but I have dealt with all kinds of potential customers, some serious and some not-so-serious. In any business situation, you will get some people who want to talk to you one the phone, but just can't committ to a meeting in person. If you get the "feeling" that the potential client is just waisting your time, you can refer them to the doula web site for more info, or request a meeting in person. "That is a very interesting question, lets get together and talk about it."
Your own personal doula web site might be useful here... give it some links to your favorite cloth diaper, anti-circ, and pro-breastfeeding web sites. That way, when the lady calls to waste your time, you can educate her about AP with little effort on your part. And maybe even sell her some diapers ;-)
Are these ladies asking for medical info from a doula they have never met in person? Or other types of pregnancy questions?
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#3 of 10 Old 03-21-2006, 09:10 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Well, they try a couple of things. One woman is still calling my partenr and not committing to any kind of interview, and we just heard from another area doula that she's doing the same to her- she's asking all kinds of questions like, "What do you know about ITP? How about sciatica? How about this hospital? That hospital?" At first we thought she was screening us to see if we'd worked with women who were experiencing medical issues outside of pregnanc, so we assured her that each woman has circumstances going into her pregnancy that will shape her thoughts about how she will birth, and that we work with all sorts of women.

Then, she started asking for resources. "Where do you find out about this? What are natural remdies for sciatica? Where Can I find them out? What should I do?" Now these ones verge on medical advice, which we don't even do for clients. But, as she's never had our interview/ meeting session, she doesn't really know. So we tell her, and she is persisting. My partner gave her some sources, and she's back for more and more. We told her we'd love to work with her, but it's at a point where we really need to actually meet her, and figure out what she is looking for, and sign our contract. Especially since her due date is in May, and it's difficult to build the type of relationship woth our clients that best serves them without a couple of meetings.

The other woman just called and talked to me on a handful of occasions, sounding jiittery and almost like she was laughing (I thought she was just nervous) but set up an interview, cancelled, set up another one, cancelled again, and then dropped off the planet. She had asked questions about her doctor, her hospital (she said she wasn't from the area) and then was asking about epidural studies, pitocin studies, etc.

Maybe it was just a random coincidence that these both happened so close together? We usually have serious people, no matter if they decide to contract with us, or with someone else upon interviewing. It's just sort of frustrating, and vacuums up a lot of time that we could be using for our other clients!

Mama to a beautiful little girl, born July 18, 2007
Eager for a VBAC some time around April 10, 2010!
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#4 of 10 Old 03-21-2006, 10:34 AM
 
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Okay, I will speak from both sides, as a doula and as a client.

When working with people in this arena you get a lot of bites and nibbles but it takes some doing to really get actual serious clients. This was true for me when I was actively seeking out clients. It has happened to me a few times where I have put a lot of time and resources into a potential client to have them drop off the planet. It is a matter of having a basic level of information you will give over the phone and then trying to get them to commit to a face to face meeting.

I think it just takes practice and sensitivity and intuition to listen and sense where it is all going. I have the same thing happen in my massage practice as well.

One of the other things I did was put together a basic packet of services and fees...articles about doulas and what we do/don't do. Just a few pages of info with a personalized letter. That is a great way to send something out that communicates with them and then puts the ball in their court as to whether or not they want to meet you.

I will say with my first child I didn't have a doula. All my doula friends were pregnant and I just couldn't commit to any doula. I had a few short conversations with a few doulas (less than 15 minutes per call)...and I was one of those lost clients who never called back. I think that it can feel overwhelming for clients to make a decision when they have so many decisions to make...it can be paralyzing.

anyway, with the person who keeps trying to get info out of you I would say to her, next time she calls, "I think that I could better answer your questions in our interview process when we meet face to face, when would be a good time to meet?" Put it in her court.

I became rather picky about clients...especially once I had a child. I think every women should have a doula but I am not the doula for every woman...you know?! If you get a bad vibe or just don't want to deal with them, refer them out or send them to the DONA or ALACE websites. Your time is precious and you can't let people suck you dry!!

Best of luck...its tricky to navigate isn't it?!
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#5 of 10 Old 03-21-2006, 11:38 AM
 
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I think BOUNDARIES are essential for those of us who offer services like this, running our own cottage businesses... because it is a profession of care it may seem hard to draw the line, I hear you on wanting it not to be all ALL about money, but it partially is. It is also about you and your valuable experience and education, which you worked hard to get, and putting enough worth on that to have some structure to how you give of yourself, you know? With repeat callers I would simply (and truthfully) say that I am at home right now with kids/house/etc needing my attention, but if you would like to set up a consult I can make an appointment. I am considering having "office hours" during which I receive phone calls, but outside of that I simply do not have the time for it, the line between life and work. AND I feel my info/counseling/care is worthy of a meeting that is part of a contract. (This is for that repeat caller kind of sitch, not for honest folks who just call with a few questions). A website to refer people to with FAQ's is a great idea to deter those who might otherwise take advantage of your time.
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#6 of 10 Old 03-21-2006, 09:06 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks, ladies!

The odd thing is, we do have a website! They find us through the site, give their numbers, and we call them back. That's why part of me wonders (like, for giddy lady) if it was a joke or something. I do agree with the response that we are home right now with kids, etc. and can do this better in person.

Clara

Mama to a beautiful little girl, born July 18, 2007
Eager for a VBAC some time around April 10, 2010!
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#7 of 10 Old 03-21-2006, 09:43 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hippiemom
I think BOUNDARIES are essential for those of us who offer services like this, running our own cottage businesses... because it is a profession of care it may seem hard to draw the line, I hear you on wanting it not to be all ALL about money, but it partially is. It is also about you and your valuable experience and education, which you worked hard to get, and putting enough worth on that to have some structure to how you give of yourself, you know? With repeat callers I would simply (and truthfully) say that I am at home right now with kids/house/etc needing my attention, but if you would like to set up a consult I can make an appointment. I am considering having "office hours" during which I receive phone calls, but outside of that I simply do not have the time for it, the line between life and work. AND I feel my info/counseling/care is worthy of a meeting that is part of a contract. (This is for that repeat caller kind of sitch, not for honest folks who just call with a few questions). A website to refer people to with FAQ's is a great idea to deter those who might otherwise take advantage of your time.
this is some good advice, other things would be to limit your response on the phone-as far as information goes- something like we should meet face to face and I will try to answer any questions you may have then... I know that for years I would answer the phone for our homeschool group and maybe 1 our of 50 people would show up to our park day-- after a while I would just say - a very short sentence about days and times and that any questions the person may have can be answered then by several people. far simpler and less time consuming don't really know if more people actually showed up but I no longer felt like I had waisted my time.
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#8 of 10 Old 03-22-2006, 04:04 AM
 
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I see it on this board all the time.

Maybe we are all looking for good sharing of resources...free services, help, love support. Maybe we should have a world where those things are all free...

I serve alot of families in alot of different ways, some need babysitting, some need meals, some need to be able to call me for all sorts of random questions, some send their pregnant friends my way to ask me questions and I know they are birthing with an OB in the hospital, people ask me my recipes for herbals, want my ideas on good kid books for Solstice...you name it.

It's interesting. I have pondered this before and will some more. I too offer free Doula services.

What I don't like is being taken advantage of and I won't allow that. Maybe it's all about the spirit of the inquiry/request...? Hmmm...
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#9 of 10 Old 03-22-2006, 05:28 AM
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I have to throw this out there for those who find it useful -- Mercury has been in retrograde recently, compounding these problems.
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#10 of 10 Old 03-22-2006, 04:27 PM
 
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Originally Posted by SneakyPie
I have to throw this out there for those who find it useful -- Mercury has been in retrograde recently, compounding these problems.
lol

Yeah, it still is until the 25th. And this month there was Mercury, a full moon, a lunar eclipse, a solar eclipse and an equinox. That's alot in one month. I agree it does affect things.
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